Trail Riding

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Trail Riding

This is a discussion on Trail Riding within the Horse Training forums, part of the Training Horses category

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    01-10-2010, 05:50 PM
Trail Riding

Any tips on how to introduce trail riding to a horse for the first time without scaring them and how to keep them calm? With and without a trail buddy? Thanks
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    01-10-2010, 05:58 PM
A buddy or two can be helpful, but it's best that they be seasoned trail horses, who (along with their riders) can be counted on (and be content) to work at the level of the least experienced horse. It's no fun (and counterproductive) to ride with a dozen training endurance riders who want to trot through "black diamond" trails, when where you need to start is relaxed walks down clear logging roads (to pick 2 extremes).

The best advice I can give is to pretend that nothing has changed. If you're normally relaxed in the arena, but the minute you're outside the gate your body tenses, you shorten your reins, your legs come away from the horse's sides, the horse WILL pick up on that. If your's alpha, and something is making you nervous, darn right he will be. Ride the same way you always do, and expect the same kind of behavior and manners from the horse on the trail as you did in the arena.
    01-10-2010, 06:18 PM
I have broken in alot of new horses , both to saddle and trail and I just train by doing. I prefer alone, just a new horse and myself and we just head out. I am confident therefore my horse is confident and I have no issues.
I find with others the horse is concentrating on the other horse and not me.
Train by doing
    01-10-2010, 08:50 PM
It probably depends as much on the rider's ability and confidence.

There are some horses that may have never been on trail before, but having a competent rider gives the horse the confidence in new surroundings or uncertain circumstances. Even if the horse balks or acts up, the competent rider will be able to handle the situation properly and end with a positive result.

But you could take that same horse paired up with a rider who is really tense about being out on trail, and that's a potential disaster in the making. The rider will likely become frustrated, the horse may have such an unpleasant experience that it will be even more difficult to ride on trail in the future.

If at all possible, find someone who has a seasoned, BTDT trail horse to ride with. Having another horse along, especially one that takes on hills, ditches, streams, mud, and wildlife without a second thought, will help to build the confidence of the inexperienced trail horse. Along with that, the other rider can help you, offer suggestions or other tips, and be another set of eyes and ears for things to be on the lookout for (loose footing, low branches, etc).

Don't try to do too much in your first ride, especially if the horse has only ever been ridden in an arena or if the area where you plan on riding has a lot of hills. Trail riding is a fantastic physical and mental exercise for horses, but you don't want to wear him out.

Happy trails!
    01-10-2010, 08:58 PM
Green Broke
I have personally never tried it, but I knew several people who do it and seem to think it works fantastic and that is ponying the inexperienced trail horse off an experienced trail horse the first few outings (without a rider). This of course depends on the experience and confidence level of the rider - as stated above, if you're prone to feeling nervous or thinking you may not be able to handle everything easily, the ponying method is a good way to let your horse see the sights and sounds.

As for me, I prefer the experience method. I always make my first few outings with an older and reliable trail horse and a friend. This is as much for the horses benefit as it is for my own as I don't feel like something going wrong and ending up in a ditch with a broken leg and nobody around to help. I've found this method to be extremely effective, and we've had about zero issues with any new trail horse aside from some initial "lookiness".
    01-10-2010, 09:25 PM
My problem/advantage is I always choose young studs.. I can't get another horse near them for the first few months so ponying is out and even riding too near another horse becomes a problem.
The advantage is most of these young studs are extremely brave, outgoing and felling full of themselves so I never find them too timid, if anything ready to take on the world.
By the time the gelding kicks in they have already experienced alot of what trial riding has to offer.
I don't start mares and I assume they would be different.
    01-11-2010, 12:42 AM
Personnaly I prefer to go out on my own simply because it makes it a lot easier to act when required. On your own as soon as you feel like something needs addressing you can address it there and then. For example if your horse sees something that makes it nervous you can immediately get that horse facing up, rather than having to call out and make someone else wait while you deal with an object. In my own experience when riding with others you don't want to hold them up so it is easy to let things slide. I also prefer to know that a horse has made it's peace with something scary in it's own right rather than relying on another horse and not actually facing up itself.

Also if push hits shove you can get off with out having to feel like your losing face LOL.

Take your horse to an area that you know well, it is easier if you know what is around each corner even if the horse doesn't. The scariest thing I have on my rides is lots of wild goats that crash through the bush, generally never giving the horse a chance to see them. I think the fact that I am so relaxed about them helps the horse get over any anxiety, I know what they are so I don't make a big deal about them.

With trail riding you just have to get out there and do it, mileage gains experience.
    01-11-2010, 12:45 AM
Oh, by the way Riosdad, Phoenix is the first mare I have ever had/started and I can say she is no different to your boys. She too wants to 'bite the world'.
    01-11-2010, 10:50 AM
Originally Posted by Jolly Badger    

There are some horses that may have never been on trail before, but having a competent rider gives the horse the confidence in new surroundings or uncertain circumstances. Even if the horse balks or acts up, the competent rider will be able to handle the situation properly and end with a positive result.
I totally agree, if you're confident, your horse will be.

Just don't over think it. :) Go out for 10 minutes one day, then go out 20 the next time, etc. I wouldn't say you do or don't need someone to go with you. If it was me, I'd go alone. Just because you can dedicate your full attention to the horse and you won't have the tendency to get distracted by the other rider or the other horse. It will also give your horse confidence to go out alone, as some horses don't like to head out by themselves, which can lead to a whole mess of other problems.

Keep us posted!
    01-11-2010, 10:58 AM
Originally Posted by RiosDad    
I don't start mares and I assume they would be different.
I would like to disagree with you here, if that is alright. I have worked with studs, geldings and mares, all whom had different personalities, which in turn affected the way they needed to be handled, not because of their sex. I've worked with mares that acted like studs, studs that acted like geldings and geldings that have acted like mares.

Sex does come into play in some training instances, but never have I seen a trainer judge a horse because of their sex and create a training program around that. That would just be silly. Every horse is different, as are people, no matter what their sex is.

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